The Future is Now: Central Valley Farmland at the Tipping Point?
Executive Summary
Resumen Ejecutivo
Current Trends
     Population Growth
  Farmland Use and Development
  Quality of Farmland Developed
  Efficiency of Urban Development
  "Ranchettes" & Other Rural Development
  Agricultural Trends
Local Plans & Performance
  Analytical Method
  Sutter County
  Sacramento County
  Yolo County
  San Joaquin County
  Stanislaus County
  Merced County
  Madera County
  Fresno County
  Tulare County
  Kings County
  Kern County
Where is The Valley Heading?
Time for Change
  Ideas for Change
What You Can Do
  Rank Your County
  Local Official Contacts
  Local Organizations
  Support AFT
Methodology & Background Data
About AFT in California

Tulare County
Comparison of Plans & Performance

Basic Plan Information Highlights

Tulare County General Plan - Various parts adopted at different dates since the 1970s. Rural Valley Lands Plan 1976.

Update now in progress.
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[Link to Tulare County General Plan Update Process]

Visalia General Plan - Adopted 1991

We are sorry that we were not able to provide planning information for every city in the county. If officials or residents of those cities provide us with relevant data and information, we will make every effort to update this web site.

In 1974, the eight incorporated cities and the Tulare County Association of Governments adopted the first plan in the Valley to include urban growth boundaries. The plan was amended in 1988. The County plan is also among the only ones in the Valley to explicitly consider the plans of adjoining jurisdictions. (TCGP, Background Report, at 3-72 to 3-75) The County's Rural Valley Lands Plan was one of the first comprehensive farmland preservation plans in the nation, containing an innovative point system for determining when and where development is appropriate. The City of Visalia's general plan includes an innovative set of three concentric growth boundaries pegged to population, thus establishing a standard for average per capita land consumption that could be a model for the Valley. The City of Farmersville won a 2004 Outstanding Planning Award from the American Planning Association for its innovative general plan featuring farmland preservation and smart growth.

[Click here for a Table Summarizing County Performance Data and Rank Compared with Other Counties]

Do local plans and their implementation provide certainty by clearly and consistently (without too many changes) indicating where urban development should occur and where agriculture should remain the preferred, long-term use of land?

[Click here for an explanation of this question]
What the Plans Intend
What Is Actually Happening

“Urban Development Policies:  a) This plan element establishes Urban Development Boundaries which define twenty-year planning areas around incorporated cities in which the County and cities will coordinate plans ...   It is recognized that these boundaries provide an official definition of the interface between future urban and agricultural land uses." Policy 1UB.A.1, Tulare County General Plan Policy Summary (TCPS), at 1-10 to 1-12.

“The predominant agricultural character of land between communities should be preserved.”  1LU.A.4, TCPS, at 1-3.

Preservation of productive agricultural land shall be of the highest priority when considering ... expansion of Urban Development Boundaries." Id

“Manage planning area growth to be contiguous and concentric from the City’s core area.”  Goal 6, Visalia General Plan (VGP), Land Use Element, at 1-25.

"Establish Urban Development Boundaries to accommodate estimated City population for the years 2000, 2010 and 2020, as the urbanized area within which a full range of urban sevices will need to be extended to accommodate urban development. These boundaries shall be established based on the following factors ... Progressive increase in the percentage of buildout in existing developed areas of the community, to a maximum of 90 percent buildout." VGP, at 3-44; Appendix C (table on buildout requirements).

"[For annexation purposes,] an analysis shall be prepared and considered of the amount of land within existing city limits ... relative to a 10 year supply for residential and 20 year supply for commerical or industrial." Tulare LAFCO Policy C-1

“All lands to be more suitable for nonagricultural zoning by means of [a point system] may be zoned for urban/suburban types of uses...If the number of points accumulated is seventeen or more, then the parcel shall remain agriculturally zoned...”.  RVLP, Policies 11.A.2 and 11.A.3; TCPS, at 11-2.

Percentage of urban & built-up land outside city spheres of influence: 31% (Rank 7)

[Click here to see a map of actual development 1990-2000]

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Do local plans and their implementation avoid development of high quality farmland in favor of less productive land?

[Click here for an explanation of this question]
What the Plans Intend
What Is Actually Happening

"Land use in Tulare County should be determined with soil characteristics ... Urban uses should be permitted on Class I, II and III soils only when these uses are within spheres of influence ..." TCGP, Environment & Resource Management Element, Policies 6.I.1 and 6.I.2, at 6-18.

"Attempt to maintain agriculture as a primary, extensive land use, not only in recognition of the economic importance of agriculture, but also in terms of agriculture's real contribution to the economic conservation of open space and natural resources." TCGP, Envtl Resources Mgt Element, Policy 6.I.5, at 6-19

“There are basically three types of agricultural zoning classifications which should be considered for application in the Valley:  a) An extensive agricultural zone is needed for rural areas significantly removed from urban areas...b) An intensive agricultural zone is needed for areas of the county in reasonably close proximity to the urban areas....c) An exclusive agricultural zone is the most restrictive of the three types and is needed primarily for rural areas ... of high quality soils...” Implementation Program 1LU.DI.1, TCGP, at 1-5 to 1-6.

Proportion of all land developed 1990-2000 that was High Quality Farmland: 58% (Rank 4)

High Quality Farmland as a proportion of all land in county*: 48%

* Note: This includes only te 51% of the county that has been mapped by FMMP, thus excluding undevelopable terrain.

High Quality Farmland as a proportion of undeveloped land within city spheres of influence: 79% (Rank 10)

Land Development Quality Index:
1.22 (Rank 7)


Do local plans and their implementation protect agriculture by limiting and buffering incompatible residential development?

[Click here for an explanation of this issue]

What the Plans Intend
What Is Actually Happening

“The predominant agricultural character of land between communities should be preserved.”  1LU.A.4, TCPS, at 1-3.

Discourage the conversion or division of agricultural lands to non-agricultural uses and parcel sizes.”  Policy Objectives V.1, RVLP, at 3.

“The Rural Valley Lands Plan utilizes five exclusive agriculture (AE) zones, each requiring a different minimum parcel size (ranging from five to eighty acres).  These zones are as follows:  AE, AE-10, AE-20, AE-40 and AE-80.  The number designation on each zone generally reflects the minimum amount of land needed to productively farm a certain crop at a commercial level.”  Tulare County GP Update, General Background Report, Oct. 2004, at 3-14.

Developed 1.5-10 ac ranchette acreage 1996: 17,214 (Rank 8)

Ranchette acreage as percentage of Urban & Built-Up Land: 35% (Rank 10)

Agricultural land zoned by County as AE-10 and AE-20, permitting residential dwellings on parcels of 20 acres or smaller: 233,400 acres. Would permit up to 11,670 ranchettes, though these zones are intended for agricultural use. TCGP, Background Report, Oct. 2004, at 3-15.

Do local plans and their implementation promote efficient "smart" development that minimizes farmland conversion while making communities more livable and sustainable?

[Click here for an explanation of this issue]
What the Plans Intend
What Is Actually Happening

"Increase residential densities to reduce the need for conversion of prime agricultural areas. Techniques to be utilized include ... mixed use planned unit developments, intergration of duplexes in single family subdivisions and development of properties to, at least, the minimum densities specified in the Land Use Element." Visalia General Plan, Policy 6.3.4, at 3-46

People per urbanized acre 2000:
6.0 (Rank 5)

People per urbanized acre of new development 1990-2000:
5.7 (Rank 11)

Undeveloped land within city spheres of influence: 50,877 acres (Rank 7); as percentage of 2020 need at current efficiencies: 164% (Rank 4)

Vehicle Miles Traveled Per Household 2000: 23,412 (Rank 2)
Change from 1990: +5.5% (Rank 7)

92% of the 7,700 acres of residentially designated land in unincorporated parts of the county is zoned for low-density use (4 DU/ac or less). TCGP Housing Element, Table 3-1A

The City of Visalia is now engaged in strategic planning for East Downtown revitalization featuring mixed-use, transit-oriented development, open space, etc. [Link to Process]

Note on Ranking: The Central Valley counties included in this report are ranked to enable a comparison of their performance in preserving farmland and encouraging "smart growth." A rank of 1 (among the 11 counties studied) indicates the best relative performance, a rank of 11 indicates the worst relative performance. Rankings are based on percentage change (where it is given), amount of change (where no percentage change is given) or the absolute number (where no change is given).

Land Development Quality Indexmeasures how well the local jurisdictions in a county have avoided the development of High Quality Farmland (HQF) by taking advantage of the available options for encouraging development of lower productivity land. It is the ratio of the percentage of development during 1990-2000 that occurred on HQF to the percentage of all land in the county mapped by FMMP that is HQF. The latter excudes undevelopable areas such as deserts and mountains. An LDQI greater than 1.0 indicates that the county is not taking full advantage of its alternatives.

Vehicle Miles Traveled Per Household is closely correlated with efficient development patterns that minimize auto trips between home, work, schools and shopping (as well as with levels of air pollution). [Click here for more information]

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